One of the most popular questions that I receive is, “How did you know you wanted to be a Registered Dietitian?” In honor of National Registered Dietitian Day, I thought I would tell you how my “Plan B” turned into “RD to Be.”
I’m going to be totally honest here. The first time I heard the word “dietetics” was in high school while eating lunch in my high school cafeteria. My friends and I were discussing what we wanted to study in college and one of my classmates said she was going to study dietetics.
Dietetics? What the heck is that? Then I probably said something like….can you pass the skittles?
I already had a plan.
I was going to study music education/vocal performance in college and be the next Julie Andrews. After all, my life revolved around music and I was the music/drama kid in school. I had 12 years of piano under my belt, 3 years of voice lessons, and I carried my guitar everywhere like Fraulein Maria from The Sound of Music. I’ve always been a story teller, and music was just another way that I could tell stories. But halfway through my freshman year of college, I was having issues with my voice. I noticed that I was having difficulty with my vocal range and I knew something wasn’t right. After a visit with an ENT, I found out that I had developed nodules. (Probably from cheerleading in high school, over performing, and not using proper technique.) It was kinda like this….
I needed a “Plan B.”
I was devastated. Everything I had banked on totally fell through and I honestly had no idea what I would do because music was all I had ever planned on doing. After getting over the shock, I started reaching out to people to get their thoughts and ideas. Both my brother and sister have a background in medicine, and I thought maybe something related to that would be good. After chatting with my older brother, I decided that going to school to be a physician’s assistant would be the next best option. My brother is a physician, so the plan was to finish school and then go work for him. Easy, right?
But first I had to pick a major that would give me the classes I needed in order to apply to PA school. I looked at my options and decided on nutrition science. Why? Well, my brother was in the process of becoming board certified in allergy. He thought that by taking nutrition classes, I would have even more knowledge under my belt in order to coach patients on what foods to avoid or include in their diet. (Nutrition Science is similar to Dietetics, but it includes more science classes like advanced courses in biochemistry and physics.) I actually took classes at both Southeast Community College and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in order to complete my degree. I didn’t realize that I would love the nutrition classes as much as I did. I was fascinated by it! And for the first time, I started taking better care of myself because I realized the impact of how good nutrition and physical activity made me feel. I also had some amazing professors along the way who went out of their way to mentor me and encourage me. Jo Taylor & Erin Caudill from SCC and Linda Young & Dr. Tim Carr from UNL played a huge role in my academic career and I’m forever grateful.
Before my senior year, I met the man that is now my husband. We met, fell in love, got engaged, and then we were married just weeks after I graduated. At that point, we knew we were moving to Washington D.C., so I knew that PA school would have to wait.
After we moved back from DC, I needed a job and it didn’t really matter doing what. I worked for a human resources consulting firm as their corporate cook. I cooked breakfast, lunch, and a snack every day for over 100 employees. I had to get up at 4 am everyday to make sure that I had time to pick up groceries and prepare the meals for the day. It was pretty grueling and this was when I first understood the meaning of corporate crapfest. No thank you.
That experience is what really motivated me to go back to school. But instead of applying to PA school, I realized that I really wanted to be a Registered Dietitian. I knew that I loved to cook and I knew that I loved helping people make healthy food choices. It just made sense that I was supposed to pursue a career in dietetics.
So, I applied to the dietetic internship at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and also got a part time job at a rehab hospital. Luckily, I was accepted into the program and finished graduate school two years later. After completing my dietetic internship and sitting for the Registered Dietitian exam, I finally could call myself a “Registered Dietitian.”
It was an interesting journey, but I’m so thankful for the ride. Happy Registered Dietitian Day to all my friends and colleagues saving lives one diet at a time.